Reaching the business end of Chan should be Micho’s minimum target

ROBERT MADOI 

What you need to know:

Your columnist came away none the wiser after listening to a video clip prepared by Fufa's media team. In the clip, Micho laboriously tried to assure all and sundry that he hadn't taken leave of collective senses by overlooking Yunus Sentamu—his weapon of choice when the Cranes came marginally close to reaching the Chan 2014 knockout stage. It's abundantly clear that the omission of the Vipers SC forward is squarely down to politics. Period.
 

There are no prizes for guessing what teams at the impending African Nations Championship or Chan in Tunisia will pinpoint as Uganda's vulnerability.

While making the cut for the tournament on multiple occasions has made the Cranes a revered and feared presence in the Cecafa region, a series of setbacks suffered at the big time underpin why many think the team is either too weak or eager to impress.

Continental showpiece events such as the Chan are known to lean heavily on the appeal of pedigree. Sadly for the Cranes, performances at the biennial event have been inconsistent and at times reluctant so much so Uganda has never made it to the knockout stage in five attempts.

The sixth attempt starts in earnest next Saturday when Uganda entertains the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Then matches against the west African pair of Senegal (January 18) and Côte d'Ivoire (January 22)  follow in quick succession.

Two draws against Sudan and Cameroon in trial matches staged in Tunisia this week give little indication of how far the Cranes will go. Trial matches are a notoriously flawed barometer to rely on especially since diligent work that goes on behind the scenes tends not to be showcased. And also, perhaps most importantly, the Cranes have repeatedly failed to demonstrate such willingness not to be on the losing side whenever the Chan starts proper.

In fact, Uganda's weight of numbers at the Chan—since making her debut in 2011—is astonishingly harsh on its reputation as a top dog in the Cecafa region. The reaction to a return of only one win in 15 matches is bound to be almost uniformly of disbelief.

And don’t get your columnist started on what a haul of 11 goals in 15 matches merits. More than anything, it certainly shows Ugandan football in a most unflattering light.

It’s not hard to tell whether lightning will strike twice as—with unnerving frequency—tends to be the case at Chan finals. Anyone who delves into the Cranes—even with genteel insistence—must have noticed something amiss with its Chan 2023 preparations. While the Cranes coach—Milutin 'Micho' Sredojević—can be relied upon to be unfailingly supportive and rigorously demanding of his charges during training sessions, such preparations can’t be said to have launched his team on an upward trajectory.

After naming his Cranes provisional squad, Micho found himself in a defensive crouch. The Serbian tactician had to defend why he named a squad without a recognised striker. A coach's performance in front of the camera is always crucial, but in some it is defining. As this column has noted before, silence has never been one of Micho's potent tools. While previously—certainly during his stint as SC Villa head coach—what the Serb articulated played an important part in establishing believability, this time round all it succeeds in doing is sowing seeds of doubt.

Your columnist came away none the wiser after listening to a video clip prepared by Fufa's media team. In the clip, Micho laboriously tried to assure all and sundry that he hadn't taken leave of collective senses by overlooking Yunus Sentamu—his weapon of choice when the Cranes came marginally close to reaching the Chan 2014 knockout stage. It's abundantly clear that the omission of the Vipers SC forward is squarely down to politics. Period.

If Micho thought he came through that recorded defence unscathed and, with any luck, his reputation enhanced, the last-ditch decision to shoehorn in-form Nelson Senkatuka in his squad put a renewed focus on the Serb's indecisiveness. Later, when he dropped Ibrahim Kasule—ostensibly because the Wakiso Giants player is delicate of frame—the Cranes coach got a bad rap. Deservedly so.

It's evident that the Serb will oversee his third Chan tournament as Cranes head coach with his work cut out. An enchantingly paradoxical figure, a hostile welcome will clearly await Micho if he fails to achieve the minimum target of reaching the knockout stage.

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